The Rev. Dr. Allison Tanner, Associate Pastor, Lake Shore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA; ABSW ‘2000; PhD Graduate Theological Union ‘2011
We wait with anticipation
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves. (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
See also: Isaiah 40:1–11, Romans 8:22–25
Incarnation – the idea that God comes to us where we are: into our world with all its division and hostility, into our society rife with injustice and inhumanity, into our lives amidst all our pain and messiness – that God comes to us to be with us, suffer with us, and show the way to salvation among and alongside us – this is the joy, and the mystery, of Christmas.
In this Advent season of waiting and longing for God’s presence to manifest itself once again, we stand with our ancient community of faith – with the psalmist who both celebrates the great acts of God and longs for God to act in great ways again, with the prophet who longs for comfort and declares that the Comforter is on the way, with the apostle who testifies that all of creation is waiting, hoping, longing and anticipating the first-fruits of God’s kin-dom – we take our place celebrating the historic incarnation and anticipating God’s continued interruption into our lives in ways that bring joy, healing, comfort, justice, peace and salvation.
When we sing of that little town of Bethlehem into which the Christ-child was born, we also sing our prayer that the Christ-child be “born in us today.” Born in a way that restores God’s glory, in a way that provides comfort to those who mourn, a way that bears the weight of longing, groaning in birth pains for what is soon to come. We sing that the joy, the majesty and the mystery of Christmas not just take place in history, but within our very beings – God’s presence with us and within us, among us and amidst us – in ways that allow us to embody the divine in our world once again.
Let us wait in anticipation, preparing the way and claiming the promise of the Holy One in our midst.
We get anxious with the waiting, O God. We want to see you among us right now. May your Spirit bring peace to our minds and hearts, that you might be born in us today. Amen.